By Ariana Milian
Assistant Opinion Editor
Dear American Tourist,
Now that Spring Break is over, you’re uploading a steady stream of pictures of the historic streets and classic cars of Havana to Instagram. You’re basically saying “look at me, I went to Cuba for Spring Break because I can.”
You flew into an airport or your cruise ship docked at a port that the government owns. The proceeds that come from that airport go to the military that systematically oppresses, robs, and sometimes kills its own people.
You took pictures of your plate of food at restaurants, the bands you listened to in bars, and the drivers of the cars that chauffeured you around. You didn’t notice that while you dined on tender beef, families are collecting crumbs. The band in scrappy and their instruments are old and run down. There are holes in your taxi drivers’ shoes. In reality, you are turning a blind eye to the reality of 21st century Cuba.
The restaurant you ate at was likely off limits to Cubans. Nobody in Cuba eats that well, ever. In fact, Cubans take up illegal side- hustles in addition to their “official” jobs just to keep food on their tables. They do things like buy and sell illegal newspapers because their jobs don’t pay more than $25 a month. Can you even imagine living on $25 a week, much less a month?
In Cuba, people who are trained as doctors, accountants, and engineers drive taxis because they make more in a single taxi ride than anyone in their trained profession would make in a month.
But you didn’t know or notice any of this, did you? Cubans pride themselves on their ability to put on a brave face, but you never bothered to even try to learn the truth.
How do I know all of this stuff and why does it make me so angry? After all, I am just an American, middle- class, college student. I’m also of Cuban descent with family still in Cuba, living in a coastal town. I have grown up watching my Abuela sending all that she can to them to keep them fed.
I have lived with the heartache of not having met members of my family. In fact, I may never meet them. Yes, I technically can go to Cuba to meet them and bring them supplies, like fish hooks, money, cleaning supplies, and soap. But I won’t, because I know that by flying or sailing in, I would be doing more harm to them than good.
I’m not writing this article to shame you- I’m just writing to educate you in the hopes that you do not continue to turn a blind eye to the desperation and exclusion of the country you visited and its people.
Cuba is not yet free, and Americans should not visit until it is.